2016 - BPsySc (Hons)
A substantial amount of research into victim blaming and secondary victimization has shown when people perceive the victim as blameworthy in the situation, they will be less punitive or react less negatively to the perpetrator, however when the victim is deemed “innocent”, people are more punitive towards the perpetrator, and blame the perpetrator more (Bal & van den Bos, 2015; Hayes, Lorenz, & Bell, 2013; Kaplan, 2012; Landström, Strömwall, & Alfredsson, 2015).
It can be said that the underlying construct of this effect is personal threat. When people observe a crime that they can relate to because they identify with the victim, and or they could see themselves behaving in the same way under the same circumstances, people will blame the victim less and become more punitive toward the perpetrator as a form of self-protection.
The current study aimed to investigate how a victim’s similarity and their level of control in the scenario contribute additively to effect participant’s recommended punishment for the crime, and participant’s blame assignment to the victim and perpetrator, for a legally equitable crime. In line with previous research, it was predicted that there will be a main effect of victim similarity such that participants who were similar to the victims would react more negatively to the perpetrator in the form of greater support for harsher punishment, than participants who were dissimilar to the victims (Hypothesis 1).
In line with the counterfactual literature, it was predicted there will be a main effect of victim control such that victims who were perceived as having higher control would be seen as more blameworthy, thus participants would react less harshly to the perpetrator, than in cases where the victims had low perceived control (Hypothesis 2). Furthermore, it is predicted that the effect of similarity and control on support for harsher punishment, will be mediated by perceived personal threat (Hypothesis 3).